The editing of this Sunday’s psalm for its placing in the Lectionary mutes the complexity of the text.
The voice we hear at Mass sings of trust in the Lord and availability for his purpose. We are encouraged to hear the voice of Christ in the psalm.
However read on, our psalmist is aware of his iniquities and failings: this is not Christ!
But the love and compassion of God is not only for the righteous. It is for others too who have need of the Lord – and saved by him, even in our frailty we can be his effective servants, bearing witness to the Good News.
(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)
Psalm 40 (39)
1 For the Choirmaster. Of David. A Psalm.
2 I waited, I waited for the Lord,
and he stooped down to me;
he heard my cry.
3 He drew me from the deadly pit,
from the miry clay.
He set my feet upon a rock,
made my footsteps firm.
4 He put a new song into my mouth,
praise of our God.
Many shall see and fear
and shall trust in the Lord.
5 Blessed the man who has placed
his trust in the Lord,
and has not gone over to the proud
who follow false gods.
6 How many, O Lord my God,
are the wonders and designs
that you have worked for us;
you have no equal.
Should I wish to proclaim or speak of them,
they would be more than I can tell!
7 You delight not in sacrifice and offerings,
but in an open ear.
You do not ask for holocaust and victim.
8 Then I said, “See, I have come.”
In the scroll of the book it stands written of me:
9 “I delight to do your will, O my God;
your instruction lies deep within me.”
10 Your justice I have proclaimed
in the great assembly.
My lips I have not sealed;
you know it, O Lord.
11 Your saving help I have not hidden in my heart;
of your faithfulness and salvation I have spoken.
I made no secret of your merciful love
and your faithfulness to the great assembly.
12 O Lord, you will not withhold
your compassion from me.
Your merciful love and your faithfulness
will always guard me.
13 For I am beset with evils
too many to be counted.
My iniquities have overtaken me,
till I can see no more.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart is sinking.
14 Be pleased, O Lord, to rescue me;
Lord, make haste to help me.
15 O let there be shame and confusion
on those who seek my life.
O let them turn back in confusion
who delight in my harm.
16 Let them be appalled because of their shame,
those who jeer and mock me.
17 O let there be rejoicing and gladness
for all who seek you.
Let them ever say, “The Lord is great,”
who long for your salvation.
18 Wretched and poor though I am,
the Lord is mindful of me.
You are my rescuer, my help;
O my God, do not delay.
- Translation of Psalms: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010.
- Commentary: (c) 2019, Allen Morris
- Photo (c) 2018, Allen Morris. Detail of Untitled (For Francis). Anthony Gormley (Collection of the Tate, London.)